Learning to think differently about our true value
I came across this quote from Jonathan Fields a while ago, and have had it on a note on my desk since then, because it really made me think - and reframe - some of my approach to work…and to life no that I think about it.
Why goals are important
I do believe that identifying your goals and desired outcomes, and then planning how to reach them is the only way to achieve anything. Even when it comes to personal development, if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve it can become an endless cycle of ‘what’s next?’, ‘what do I do. Now?’, and shiny-object-syndrome. Also by clearly identifying an objective, you can then start to break that down into small, achievable micro-steps - which are much easier to get done, and start to build confidence and momentum through quick-wins. That’s even how I approach my mental health. Trying to solve the feelings that are overwhelming me HAS to start with small steps that help me feel like I am capable of the next small step. And that then grows and helps me feel in control, and like I’m managing it well. (Most days anyway :P )
I’ve mentioned before how important I think it is to really evaluate your goals based on your OWN ideas of success and achievement. We have all too often seen people working themselves to death to achieve something that is really just based on what someone else thinks of as ‘successful’. Sometimes quite literally! But no matter what, focussing on a goal works - it makes things feel achievable and allows us to have a plan.
BUT, going back to Jonathan Field’s quote - what if we think about it in a different way?
Goals are not important, the process is.
Now initially when I read this quote I started thinking about the idea that the PROCESS is the important thing. That’s not a particularly strange or new idea - people from TS Eliot to Ralph Waldo Emerson to Ursula K. Le Guin have famously proposed as much. In fact even Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote in 1869: “It’s life that matters…the process of discovering, the everlasting and perpetual process, not the discovery at all.”
As a mindfulness teacher this makes perfect sense to me. In fact it’s pretty much the core idea behind living in the present moment for me - no matter what the outcome is you are working towards, be present in THIS moment along the journey. And while every journey has its dips in the road, if you are not enjoying the journey, I’m not sure the destination will make up for that. Don’t just fixate on a point in the future, live in the moments along the way. The best way to do this is through intention. Make the decision - every single day…make the decision to enjoy the journey that day. Or at least value it and be present. Or as my friend Anastasia Chomlack always says: BE HERE NOW.
The process is not important, the becoming is
The thing is, even though I think that is all incredibly true and valuable, Jonathan’s quote takes me one step deeper…what if none of the achievements matter? What if achieving (or failing at) our goals themselves doesn’t matter? What if the thing that’s most important is who we become along the way. The more I think about this the more I love it. Because at the risk of getting into all kinds of metaphysical ‘inception-ness’ here…while it doesn’t NEGATE having goals, it means that what I have become as a person along the route to those goals is where the REAL value lies. And the quote further talks about the value you bring to any “situation” being in the person you’ve become. Achieving some specific goal (aside: If anyone starts quote the S.M.A.R.T. goal thing at me I swear I’m gonna scream!) doesn’t help you bring added value to anyone else’s life or to any situation - but who you have become as a PERSON does. Who you have become as a PERSON matters so much more, and can contribute so much to the world you live in.
Think about it:
Getting to your ideal weight is a great achievement - but the real value lies in how you grew in the process. Did you become more disciplines? More mindful? Kinder to yourself? More aware of your friends’ struggles with food?
Reaching your goal of 3000 Instagram subscribers within 6 months is amazing. And you did it. But who did you become along the way? A more confident you? A better communicator? Did you allow yourself to be more vulnerable? Did you become more comfortable with your self-image?
Finally getting to grips with my mental health issues so that I feel balanced and able to manage my anxiety is FRIKKIN’ AMAZING. But actually along the way I learned to be kinder to myself. Became braver about asking for help. Developed more empathy for others dealing with similar issues. Grew to be more in touch with who I really am. Become eager to help others where I can.
Just those three examples make me want to try this thought process with everything - the goals I have achieved, and the ones I’ve failed at. The journey IS the valuable part - but not just because of what we did or learned along the way. Because of WHO WE BECAME. Even if we failed at achieving the goal we still grew as a person. Even if the journey was crap, it has made as a better, more experienced person.
OUR TRUE VALUE IS IN WHAT KIND OF PERSON WE ARE, NOT WHAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED.
It’s almost like I want to include a new criteria next to all my goal planning from now on:
But experiences are important, right? RIGHT?
Another interesting part of this whole thought process was the realisation that it ties into my long-held belief that experiences are more important that things. And I don’t just mean that it’s better to be on a beach in Bali than buying a designer handbag. I mean even small moments of joy, stolen times with friends, a smile exchanged with a stranger or connection made with someone you’ve never met are more important than buying and having more possesions. I really believe that - I think we all forget it (well I do anyway…often!) - but experiences are things that can never be lost, taken away, broken, stolen or deleted.
But using my new criteria - even experiences themselves are not the important thing. How you grow as a person BECAUSE of the experience is what matters.
I need a lie down.
I have to be honest, thinking about stuff like this can sometimes make my brain hurt. But it’s one of those things that just starts to make sense - and it just connects with that constant feeling I have of how important it is to question what we are aiming for and why. It also goes back to what I’ve said before about valuing people for their humanity rather than their status or experience or job title. It just makes sense to me.
I love the idea of valuing someone for who they have become rather than what they have achieved - to me it removes the idea of imposed criteria and becomes about that person as a human. I love that. I don’t pretend for a second that’s it simple to always think this way, but I know I want to keep trying. Everyone needs to know how valuable they are.
I’m sure every one of you reading this has been through some stuff that has been great, and some stuff that has been tough; goals achieved and failures endured. But I love that every one of you ADDS EVEN MORE VALUE to the world because of the person that ALL of those experiences have made you.
My request for you this week is simple:
Take 10 minutes to yourself someone quiet (Yup, even just ten minutes), and reframe your wins AND losses in terms of how you have grown as a person. Think about what you have learned and who you have become as a result of the failures and the achievements over the last year. See the value in who you are NOW because of them.
You see? You really are frikkin’ amazing! I hope you know that.
THE KINTSUGI JOURNAL
Kintsugi: The Japanese art of repairing what is broken or damaged with pure gold resin. A philosophical approach that teaches us to treat our flaws and experience as precious parts of us which make us more beautiful and unique, rather than striving for some perceived perfection.
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